National Interest Waiver: Everything You Need to Know About the NIW

National Interest Waiver


The national interest waiver (NIW) is a powerful option for certain highly qualified people to get a green card to the United States through self-petition. With an approved national interest waiver, someone can get a green card without having a job offer.


In this guide, I will explain what you need to know about the national interest waiver. If you have any questions, feel free to email me directly at I’m very responsive via email and I would be happy to help you.




  1. Introduction to the National Interest Waiver


  1. Benefits of a National Interest Waiver


  1. National Interest Waiver Requirements


  1. Required Documents to Apply for a National Interest Waiver


  1. National Interest Waiver Process


  1. National Interest Waiver Fees


  1. National Interest Waiver Processing Time


  1. Conclusion



1. Introduction to the National Interest Waiver



The process of getting an employer sponsored green card to the United States is usually a long and difficult process. In most cases, the U.S. company must show that they tried to hire a U.S. worker and that they were unable to do so. The company is required to post ads, interview candidates, and then must get approval from the U.S. Department of Labor to be able to hire a foreign worker. This process can get very complicated, time-consuming, and expensive. Therefore, many employers are unwilling to sponsor foreign workers for a green card.


The good news is that there are certain options for you to apply for a green card through self-petition. This means that you can apply for your green card without a job offer from a U.S. company and without a company acting as your sponsor.


One of these options is called the National Interest Waiver (NIW). The national interest waiver is available under the EB-2 immigrant category. Through the national interest waiver, certain people with skills and abilities in the field of science, arts, business, and/or certain other professions may self-petition for a green card.


Through the national interest waiver, the requirements that you have a full-time job offer and that you have a U.S. employer sponsor you, are waived.


2. Benefits of NIW


Ability to Self-Petition


As mentioned above, one of the primary benefits of the EB2 national interest waiver is the ability to self-petition for your green card. Through the national interest waiver, you do not need to go through the hassle of finding a U.S. employer that is willing to sponsor your immigrant petition. Another benefit is that through the national interest waiver, you can avoid the labor certification process altogether.




Another primary benefit of the national interest waiver is the speed of the process. Through a traditional employer-sponsored green card, the process can be very long. The employer has to undergo various recruitment activities and must also obtain an approved labor certification from the Department of Labor. This process alone can take several months to complete. However, the benefit of the EB2 national interest waiver is that there is no need do go through the labor certification process. You can file your immigrant petition directly which saves a tremendous amount of time.



3. National Interest Waiver Requirements


There are 4 main requirements to qualify for EB2 NIW:


  1. You must qualify under the EB2 immigrant category
  2. Your proposed endeavor in the U.S. must have substantial merit and national importance
  3. You must be well positioned to advance the proposed endeavor
  4. You must show that, on balance, it would be beneficial to the United States to waive the requirement that you have a job offer and that a U.S. company undergo the labor certification process.


1. Qualify Under the EB2 Immigrant Category


The EB2 national interest waiver is a special provision only available under the EB2 immigrant category. Basically, the NIW is an addition set of requirements above and beyond the EB2 requirements. Therefore, in order to qualify for a national interest waiver, you must first qualify under EB2. There are 2 main ways that you can qualify under the EB2 category. You may qualify under EB2 as either an advance degree professional or as an individual of exceptional ability.


Advance Degree Professional


To qualify as an advance degree professional, you must show the following:


  • The field you plan to work in must require an advanced degree




  • You must possess an advanced degree (any degree above a baccalaureate degree) OR you must have a baccalaureate degree plus 5 years of progressive work experience in the field you plan to work in.


Exceptional Ability


To qualify for EB2 based on exceptional ability, you must satisfy at least 3 of the following:


  • 10 years of full-time experience in your field
  • Degree in your field
  • License to practice in your profession
  • Membership in professional associations
  • Salary/remuneration that demonstrates exceptional ability
  • Recognition of your achievements and significant contributions to your field by peers, governmental entities, or professional business organizations.


2. Proposed Endeavor in the U.S. Must Have Substantial Merit and National Importance


To qualify for a national interest waiver, you must demonstrate that your proposed endeavor has both substantial merit and national importance. It is very important to clearly demonstrate that both of these prongs are satisfied.


Substantial Merit


  • Substantial merit means that the work that you will be engaging in, while in the U.S., is in a field that is valuable to the national interest of the U.S.


  • The evidence of substantial merit should focus on the specific endeavor that you will be focusing on. For example, if you are a specialist in pediatric orthopedic surgery, you should define the endeavor as pediatric orthopedic surgery rather than “medicine” or “surgery.”


  • You may show substantial merit in many different industries such as science, technology, entrepreneurialism, culture, health, business, or education.


National Importance


When determining whether your endeavor has national importance, USCIS considers the potential prospective impact.  USCIS is looking for evidence of the following:


  • Does your endeavor have national or even global implications within your particular field?


  • Does your endeavor have significant potential to employ U.S. workers or does it have other substantial positive economic effects?


Regarding national importance, it is important to know that USCIS is not so much focused on the geographic impact of your endeavor, even people who will work in an area with local or regional impact may qualify for EB2 NIW.


3. You Must be Well Positioned to Advance the Proposed Endeavor


To qualify for a national interest waiver, you must demonstrate that you are well positioned to advance your proposed endeavor.


When determining whether you satisfy this requirement, USCIS is looking to see your potential to contribute to the national interest based on your prospective work in the field.


Here are some factors USCIS uses to determine whether you satisfy this requirement:


  • education


  • skills


  • knowledge


  • record of success in related or similar efforts


  • model or plan for future activities


  • any progress towards achieving your proposed endeavor


  • interest from potential customers, users, investors, or other relevant entities or individuals


To satisfy this requirement, you are not required to show that it is more likely than not that you will be successful. Rather, you must show how you are qualified to pursue a successful result.



4. You Must Show that, on Balance, it would be Beneficial to the United States to Waive the Requirements of a Job Offer and Thus of a Labor Certification


When determining whether or not you satisfy this requirement, USCIS weighs the following:


  • Whether it would be impractical for you to secure a job offer


  • Whether it would be impractical for your prospective employer to obtain a labor certification


  • Whether, even if other qualified U.S. workers are available, the U.S. would still benefit from your contributions


  • Whether the national interest in your contributions is sufficiently urgent to warrant forgoing the labor certification process.


In each case, all of these factors are weighted together to determine whether it would be beneficial to waive the requirements of a job offer and thus of a labor certification.



5. Required Documents to Apply for a National Interest Waiver


There are many different types of documents that should be included in your application for a national interest waiver. The documents that you will include will depend on the specific circumstances of your case. Before making any decisions regarding what documents to submit with your case, it is important to consult with an experienced immigration lawyer.


Here is a general list of some of the documents that may be included:


  • Copies of your educational degrees


  • Evidence of exceptional ability (if applicable)


  • Curriculum Vitae (CV)


  • Citation report


  • Link to Google Scholar profile


  • Publications, articles, books that you have authored


  • Evidence of prizes or awards that you have received


  • Evidence that you have reviewed the work of others


  • Published material about you/your field of endeavor


  • Evidence of the receipt of grants/patents


  • Copy of the biographic page of your passport


  • Testimonials from experts in your field


6. National Interest Waiver Process


Step 1. Consult with an Immigrant Lawyer


The first step in the NIW process is to consult with an experienced immigration lawyer. It is important to consult with an immigration lawyer for the following reasons:


  • An experienced immigration lawyer can review your credentials and provide you with an analysis regarding the likelihood of approval of your case.


  • An immigration lawyer can review your background and immigration history to determine whether there may be a better option for you to get your green card.


  • Applying for a national interest waiver can be extremely complicated. Each NIW case requires a detailed strategy for how to prove that you satisfy each of the NIW requirements. An experienced immigration lawyer will help you develop a strategy for successfully applying for your EB-2 national interest waiver.



Step 2. File Form I-140 with USCIS


The Form I-140 is also called the Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker. This is the initial form that must be filed with USCIS to apply for a green card under EB2 NIW.


Along with the Form I-140, your immigration lawyer will prepare a detailed cover letter explaining your case and your eligibility for a national interest waiver. In addition, all of the documentation in support of your eligibility for a national interest waiver will also be included with the Form I-140.


Step 3. Either Adjustment of Status or Visa Processing


Once your Form I-140 is approved and a visa number is available for you, the next step will be to either do an adjustment of status or to undergo immigrant visa processing. Each of these options is different. I will example the differences below.


Adjustment of Status


  • An adjustment of status is when someone “adjusts” from a non-immigrant status to lawful permanent resident status.
  • In order to do an adjustment of status, you must be lawfully present in the United States in a valid non-immigrant status.
  • An adjustment of status is done by filing a Form I-485 with USCIS
  • The adjustment of status process takes place within the United States (no need to leave the U.S.)
  • If the priority date is current at the time of filing the Form I-140, you may concurrently file the Form I-485 adjustment of status along with the I-140.


Immigrant Visa Processing


  • Immigrant visa processing is when someone applies for an immigrant visa at a consulate or embassy outside of the United States
  • Immigrant visa processing is typically done when someone is not lawfully present in the U.S. in a valid non-immigrant status
  • Immigrant visa processing is done by electronically filing a DS-260 with the Department of State
  • As part of the process of immigrant visa processing, you must attend a visa interview at a consulate abroad
  • Following successful completion of the interview, you should receive your immigrant visa within a few days
  • Once you enter the U.S. on your immigrant visa, you are officially a U.S. lawful permanent resident.



7. National Interest Waiver Fees


Here are the USCIS filing fees for each step of the EB2 NIW process:


Filing Fee for Form I-140: $700


Filing Fee for Form I-485 (Adjustment of Status): $1,225


Premium Processing Fee: Optional $1,410


8. National Interest Waiver Processing Time


The overall processing time to receive your green card through EB-2 NIW will depend on multiple factors. Please see below for the different scenarios.


Concurrent Filing of Form I-140 and Form I-485 (Adjustment of Status)


If you are lawfully present in the U.S. in a valid non-immigrant status, and if a visa number is available, you may be eligible to concurrently file your Form I-140 and Form I-485. In this case, you should receive your work authorization (EAD) and travel permission (advance parole) within 6 months. You should receive your green card within about 8-9 months.


Immigrant Visa Processing with Current Priority Date


If you are not lawfully present in the U.S. and will be doing immigrant visa processing, you will first have to file the I-140 with USCIS. Once the I-140 is approved, you can then undergo immigrant visa processing. The I-140 takes about 7-8 months to get approved. Once the I-140 is approved, assuming a visa number is available (current priority date) you can then begin immigrant visa processing which takes an additional 7-9 months. So, the total processing time would be about 14-17 months.


Priority Date Note Current (Visa Backlog)


For countries like India and China, there is a very high demand for visas under the EB2 category. The demand is higher than the number of visas available, and so there is visa retrogression (visa backlog). What this means is that, for certain countries, there is a waiting list for people to get a visa under the EB-2 category. If you were born in a country that has a visa backlog, once your I-140 petition is approved, you will have to wait for a visa number to become available (wait for your priority date to become current) before you can apply for your immigrant visa or adjustment of status. If this applies to you, the total time it takes to get your green card can be many years.



9. Conclusion


The EB2 national interest waiver is a great option for you to get lawful permanent residence (a green card) to the United States, without the need for a job offer. Through the EB2 national interest waiver, you can self-petition for your green card and also apply for your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old.


The EB-2 NIW has a high-standard that you must meet in order to get your case approved. It is therefore very important to work with an experienced lawyer to prepare and file your application.


If you have any questions about the EB-2 NIW, please feel free to email me directly at I’m a U.S. immigration lawyer, and I would be happy to help you.









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Ashish sinha
00:27 02 Oct 21
I reached Michel to get help on i765(L2 EAD) expedite request. He explained me the chances are slim yet filed the request on my behalf.They are just a message away and revert phone calls anytime. They try to explain every bit of your... case.Despite of my expedite request having a low chance of approval, I am glad that my case was picked it's all because Michel and his team prepared my case so well that I got the expedited request approved.I am so happy, kudos to Michel, venshkha, jaser.Ashish Sinharead more
Dina Ibrahem
22:56 01 Oct 21
I've been dealing with them for a year now, they helped me a lot, very professional and friendly! I am always comfortable taking their advices and consult them through my case and they never let me down. and most importantly is that they are very... humble and available literally any time i needed an advice or if I have any concerns.I also LOVE that they email me before any important appointment I would have, making sure that I receive the mails and always sending me soft copies just in case which is GREAT and they constantly keep reminding all the way till my appointment comes. I am still a client with them and very happy, Thanks to Vaneskha Wilson, Jeser Romero, Lahaina Araneta, Milena Manukyan, Elaine Leduna , Karla Samayoa and of course Michael more
Sach Gill
19:39 30 Sep 21
Had a chat with Rohit Srinivasa. He is informative and possess good knowledge about the immigration related matters. Highly recommended.
Aniruddha Ghosh
16:53 30 Sep 21
Talked to Rohit Srinivasa from Ashoori Law. He is incredibly knowledgable about US immigration laws and is quite freindly. Highly recommended if you are a student on F-1 (OPT, STEM) or are looking to file H-1B.
Kristina Karalic
18:56 29 Sep 21
We accidentally found Ashoori Law online, but we're so happy we did because they have been nothing but outstanding! Ashoori Team has been helping us with multiple cases, including B, L visas and green cards. Their portal is very user friendly, and... their staff is always responsive, caring and detailed. I'd like to give a special shout-out to their Director of Legal Operations, Lahaina Araneta, who has been an absolute delight to work with. I am highly recommending Ashoori Law to anyone seeking immigration services!read more
Zulfa Sultana
18:18 29 Sep 21
I am glad I chose them. Above everything, they are friendly and work closely with you. Owner of the law firm himself is available to talk if needed. Highly recommending them.
Joao Castro
00:31 29 Sep 21
Michael and his team deserve more than a five star rating. I hired Mike already based on a recommendation from a friend of mine, who also requested his services. My friend gave him five star as well, and this could simply not be different.Since my... first contact with Michael, I've perceived his solid ethical principles, responsive professionalism and personal attention to all details in US immigration complex process. In my case, he was key for me to obtain I-131 permits for three Green Cards - and the documents were shipped after just six weeks after the process initiation. In another process, he has been immediately responsive to replace Green Cards. And all my contacts were online - which is a testimony of his great online reputation.If you are looking for US Immigration lawyer assistance for true delivery, great value and avoid risks and potential problems, the answer is Michael Ashoori Law, with his fantastic team, that really and personally takes care of your immigration needs.JCread more
Ahmad Jawid
01:45 28 Sep 21
Ashoori Law, Michael and his team are very professional , helpful and great people for their clients . i am very glad that i had Ashoori Law team for my paperworks . I recommend everyone Ashoori Law especially for Immigration purposes ask for... Michael .read more
Ariel 0054 Realty
01:43 28 Sep 21
Extremely professional teamWithout any doubt, they can handle with knowledge and expertise any caseYou are in good hands with them
Mittal Patel
20:29 27 Sep 21
Have worked with many immigration Lawyers. Ashoori law was very affordable and got back to me in timely manner. Made sure I was on time with my fillings and that we responded to our RFE with adequate info. Lahaina is one of their E2 lawyers and was... expert with these kinds of cases. Will hire them again for more
Pragalath Mohandas
20:30 25 Sep 21
Amazing experience. Ashoori Law firm gave me hope and prepared a strong case & I got my E2 case approved in one week. I spoke to other immigration lawyers & i was not satisfied. its easy to communicate with everyone! I highly recommend them to... anyone looking to get immigration help!read more
bhakti savai
12:26 21 Sep 21
I had great experience with Ashoori Law. Professional, knowledgeable, responsive, client-centric, and timely! Highly recommended!
William & Heather Oon
01:17 20 Sep 21
We are grateful and thankful to Ashoori Law and its team. They are very understanding, patient, responsive with all our enquiries and prompt in providing updates to our status. We highly recommended their service.
Kaushik Kuila
19:43 17 Sep 21
I have used Michael Ashoori's Law Firm for my mother's Green Card processing. I have found them very professional and responsive along the way, answering all my queries in a timely manner. I'll readily use them for any immigrations needs in future.
Hyunwook Shin
07:45 10 Sep 21
Michael Ashoori and his firm helped us navigate the complex filing process, answer any questions we have with care, and eventually attain successful approvals. Highly recommended!
Sharon Shanaya
21:53 05 Sep 21
My case was a bit complicated due to my ex-husband and his family but this firm dealt with my I-485 case so nicely and professionally. I was given only 2 weeks to lodge my application due to my messy divorce. This firm made sure my case was filed... before my conditional green card expires. Got my green card in 5 months even during this Covid time when everything takes ages to process. I Will recommend them to anyone who is having difficulty with immigration. Absolutely the best. Don't waste ur time with other more
H. George
02:10 01 Sep 21
Very professional, they have a very good system to prepare your case and make proper follow ups.My case was a little bit complicated and other places they were taking advantage trying to charge me a lots of money but Michael never did... that.Recommending 100% best lawyer more
Linda Bradley
06:06 25 Aug 21
Very happy with your services 🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻
jarka sakacova
01:08 24 Jul 21
I have a very pleasant experience with Rohit from Ashoori Law , he was very patient, professional and had a strong knowledge and answered all my questions in detail. I would recommend highly to use Ashoori Law service.
samah elwakkad
15:36 23 Jul 21
I would like to thank Ahoori law office and all the team who was helping us to obtain our L1A approvalThis office Law is truly dedicated to clients, very responsive and professional, they helped me get through so many obstacles.Can't thank them... enough for their effortsIt's really amazing how they guide their clients until they achieve their goals.Thank you Michael for the amazing dedicated team and a special thanks for Lahaina who is really an amazing person and very knowledgeable and really helpful and supportive, also Christina who has helped me a lot through this.You're the best guysKeep it upread more
raechel schofield
22:07 22 Jul 21
Highly recommend Ashoori Law. My adjustment of status was a smooth and easy process. They are always happy to answer any questions you may have along the way.
Kishore Kumar
21:13 22 Jul 21
I highly recommend Michael and his legal team for being thorough professionals. I worked with Lahaina Araneta and Kelly Raposa. Both are so helpful. They made my adjustment of status to register permanent residence a smooth and seamless process. I... definitely recommend their service !read more
Manoj Gunawardena
13:46 22 Jul 21
My experience with Ashoori Law is very good, all of my questions were quickly answered and clearly. The staff was qualified, friendly. Specially I worked with Mr. Rohit Srinivasa . I can highly recommend them.
Mohammad Ahraz Hussain
19:55 20 Jul 21
The whole process of evaluating the case, submission of RFE and then correspondence was extremely well done!
Zed Karkar
15:06 20 Jul 21
A Very helpful and professional law firm. helped us out with our application.
Inger Nicolaisen
14:57 15 Jul 21
Michael Ashoori’s professionalism and expertise is unmatched in the industry! My experience with Ashoori Law is very positive, all of my questions were quickly answered making my adjustment of status a very smooth process. The staff was... unbelievably friendly and ensured the best amount of care was taken with my case! I can’t recommend them enough!!read more
Sadaf Nadeem
00:42 09 Jul 21
I highly recommend Micheal and his legal team for being thorough professionals. Their knowledge and expertise are second to none and their work ethic is unmatched.
18:28 08 Jul 21
I had a great experience with Ashoori Law. Lahaina, Michael and Ehsan helped me to get my TN visa approved in no time.Lahaina is very responsive. Being able to reach out and talk to your lawyer/attorney is exactly what you need when you apply for... your visa...I definitely recommend them for any immigration more
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Michael Ashoori Headshot

Michael Ashoori, Esq.

U.S. Immigration Lawyer

I’m a U.S. immigration lawyer and I help families, professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs get visas, green cards, and citizenship to the United States.

Since starting my law firm, I’ve helped hundreds of people from all over the world with their immigration needs. I’m very passionate, hard-working, and committed to my clients.

Got a question? Send me an email.